Canadian artist lets her love ‘Flow’

Exhibit captures a passion for the great outdoors

Joyce Majiski’s “Voy Volando,” a flock of birds made from plastic bags, is the first piece visitors see when entering the Art Library at the Durango Arts Center. Enlarge photo

David Bergeland/Durango Herald

Joyce Majiski’s “Voy Volando,” a flock of birds made from plastic bags, is the first piece visitors see when entering the Art Library at the Durango Arts Center.

Joyce Majiski’s mission is brilliant, yet simple: “I want to bring people’s attention to the environment, without flogging the point.”

Her “Flow” exhibit, on display in the Art Library at Durango Arts Center, is a buffet of layer and texture. Majiski uses print-making, painting and collage to share her experience-steeped vision of the natural world. A Canada native, she earned a biology degree at University of Guelph in Ontario and spent 15 years in the Yukon Territory as a river guide. That job allowed Majiski to “unite fieldwork with sketching and photo, to marry those three things.”

Using found objects from the Earth such as rocks and grasses, Majiski cannot help but combine the outdoors she loves with paints, pastels and pencil etchings. However, materials are just a stepping-off point.

She plays with scale, both large and small, to fashion environments rather than isolated pieces, a technique that makes her work vibrant and accessible.

Onlookers have neither the time, nor likely the desire, to “think” about a Majiski exhibit. Instead, they step into it, live it. While many of her previous works fill vast spaces, the “Flow” installation provides a showcase for her signature expansiveness while creating “an intimate environment.”

Visitors are encouraged to touch and handle most of the works in this showcase. “The Wind River,” a collaborative, one-of-a-kind book inspired by a 17-day river trip with artist friends, features what Majiski calls “simultaneous art,” cuttings from a larger, silk-screened piece recycled in this updated work.

Reusing pieces of her larger projects, which are often difficult to market because of their size, gives her a chance to “extend the life of the work.” Beyond that, recreation of her art reflects a larger philosophy that weaves through her creative and everyday life.

“I try not to buy a lot of things,” Majiski said.“I would rather buy one old thing that works very well. It’s important that we think of a future use for things, so when they fall apart, we have a new use.”

From “The Firth River,” a collage book featuring cut-out windows and screen prints, to the accordion-style “Arizona,” a reworked book held together by elegant, meandering seams from Majiski’s sewing machine, the pieces in this collection expand perspectives through wilderness awareness.

Tying the exhibit together is “Voy Volando,” a soaring-bird installation with winged creatures fashioned from an array of plastic bags from all over the world. Majiski found inspiration for the piece while in Mexico, where she observed garbage freely crossing the United States border, while human beings struggled lifetimes to do so legally.

The idea was a catalyst for Majiski’s thoughts about human rights, “all the have-nots.” The birds in “Flow,” cut simply as colorful silhouettes, dance, dip and soar around the Art Library’s high ceiling. You can almost hear their gentle teasing as they encourage us to abandon human restriction.

Although she left the rafting business to pursue art full-time in 2003, Majiski continues to live in a small log cabin in the Yukon Territory and draws inspiration daily from this grounded existence.

With a creative style that embraces the natural world and offers it up as a joint inheritance, she finds purpose in enabling art – her own and others’ – to happen.

“I like to introduce people to wild places ... to facilitate people’s creativity and give them permission to play,” she said.

. Chelsea Terris is a freelance writer and social media specialist.